It’s that time of the year again when the Eid holidays descend on Oman and all routes, be they road, air or sea, out of the sultanate are packed with vacationers. Clubbed with the summer school break, it gives families that well-deserved time for some RR before classes and everything that comes with it, takes a toll again. Travel agencies in the city are abuzz with calls, many of which include last minute enquiries and budget holiday requests.
“This year has seen a major shift in preference among people towards budget travel. It is a challenge – to fit requirements into a plan that works,” said Sneha Phadke, senior marketing officer with Universal Travel Tourism Agencies. “Peak season air fares are high and it is a matter of concern for people looking to book seats. Those who want to spend RO200-250 end up paying RO350. The costs force them to reconsider so they prefer to put off holiday travel plans till October,” said Santhosh Mathew, deputy manager, Bahwan Holidays.
Planning for budget travellers requires offering options that will satisfy clients. According to Sneha, this means identifying travel dates and offering group tour options, hotel-to-hotel shared transfer by bus or train as taxis can be expensive, BB accommodation and sight-seeing clubbed with guided tours.
“That way, it works out to be cheaper and those who feel unsure about being alone in a foreign country will have the company of fellow travellers. It is also hassle free as vouchers, passes and all such requirements are taken care of by the organisers. All the vacationers need to do is show up.” She adds that there are plans for those who prefer to travel alone as well. “Rail Europe sees much demand among budget travellers too as it covers four to six countries.”
This is not to mean that luxury holidays don’t have any takers anymore. Switzerland and India are on top of the luxury traveller’s list, Sneha said, adding that at the former it was mountain facing chalets booked for two or more weeks with private butlers that were in demand while at the latter it was palace hotels.
The Far East never ceases to entice tourists with Malaysia and Singapore at the top two spots and Thailand down to three, Sneha said. “Solo travellers and couples opt for those places while families prefer Europe for the weather with a stopover at Disneyland in Paris.”
A travel consultant with United Travel in Ruwi said as always, Kuala Lumpur and Thailand remained the most popular destinations this holiday season with Europe being the next favourite choice. “Almost 95 per cent of the bookings are by Omanis who are looking to fly out on the days before or immediately after Eid,” the consultant said.
Other agencies say cruise travel is in demand among holidayers. “The Europe Cruise has a lot of takers,” Santhosh added while Sneha said that cruises to Far East destinations like Malaysia and Singapore are also a hit.
Amanda Rebello, a consultant with OUA Travel said people were already planning for winter. “Our cruise liners MSC Preziosa and Fantasia on the Italy-Greece-Turkey-Croatia route have very few cabins left. The MSC Orchestra, because of the many entertainment facilities onboard, is especially appealing to families.” Turkey has been a must-visit destination on every traveller’s list for a while now but Sneha said it is enquiries about Sri Lanka that has come as a surprise.
“The weather and the fact that it does not require a visa in advance appeal to holiday planners not to mention the good flight connections and affordable ticket rates. Turkey is also much sought after by people who have seen enough of the Far East and want some thing different. The country, a melting pot of
European lifestyle and Arabian influence, makes it the perfect place for such vacationers.”
Santhosh said last minute planners were opting for places such as Mauritius, Maldives, Seychelles and Cambodia while those who preferred to stay within the sultanate were planning short trips to Salalah, Jebel Shams and Jebel Akhdar with many people also choosing to drive down to Dubai. “Those who are celebrating Eid have their travel plans chalked out for after the celebrations with trips to Kenya and South Africa, apart from the Far East and Europe being favourites.”
Time to take off